Thursday, May 26, 2011

For Dana Brand

Somewhere, up in heaven or in the great beyond (you know the place, I think it's next to "Iowa"), our blogging friend Dana Brand is talking about the new Mets co-owner with his late friend from Yale, Bart Giamatti. I would love to hear a Baseball Commissioner's take on the matter. I'm sure they're having a good discussion.

In case you hadn't heard the sad news yet, Dana Brand passed away suddenly on Wednesday at the young age of 56.

In the 8 or so hours since his wife posted the news on his facebook page, I've seen many kind words and posts from our fellow bloggers in my facebook newsfeed. I have to say that like most of you who have read is blog and/or his books, I'm a bit shaken right now. I've been going over many many different things I wanted to cover in this post. Afterall, Dana was an English professor, so I owe it to him to make this post sound coherent. I always felt like I could write a better sounding post after reading his blog, simply by osmosis (I'm talking about the difference between A- work and B work in my mind. I was never much more than that).

I had the pleasure of meeting Dana on a couple of occasions. All of them Mets-related, though we shared a few non-Mets connections as well. Dana taught at Hofstra University in the English Department. When I was a student at Hofstra from 1997 through 2000, I had a gentleman's agreement with the English Department that we respectfully keep distance from each other. I never held that against him, and I remember about a year ago sharing the blurb in the Hofstra Alumni magazine about his recent book (The Last Days Of Shea). And Dana was telling me at last year's GKR main event game in early October that he noticed in my facebook profile that I had attended the same Massachusetts prep/boarding school as his wife, though she was there many years before I was.

I remember having a nice conversation with Dana on that day last October, down in the party area at Citi Field behind the bullpens where the GKR group was selling their t-shirts. And then I had the pleasure of sitting with Dana and Greg Prince of Faith and Fear In Flushing fame in the outfield seats for a couple of innings. I felt a bit out of place sitting between two Mets fans whose Mets-life stories I had read. But it was fun.

As was the first time I got to meet Dana (and Greg and a few others for that matter). 2 years ago this August, during that dismal season of 2009 (how dismal, it was the day that it had been announced that Johan Santana would miss the remainder of the season), our paths crossed at one of FAFIF's Amazin' Tuesdays, when Dana was debuting his new book, The Last Days Of Shea. As part of the readings of the evening, Dana would read a few paragraphs for the audience at Two Boots in lower Manhattan.

I had been a reader of Dana's blog for a few months, and I'd like to think he read my blog too. When I introduced myself as "DyHrdMET", he knew who I was. I've always loved the discussions in the comments of a blog post, especially back then when I had time to participate and had a lot more to say. Dana brought copies of his book, and that was main reason why I made the trip from New Jersey. I remember being excited about a book about my beloved Shea. Thinking about it now, I kind of wish Dana could communicate from that "Iowa" place right now because he could tell all of us if all the ballparks from the past are up in that magical place too.

I heard Dana read that night. A few others too. I bought a copy of Dana's book. He said it was the first copy sold, and inscribed it so ("This is the first copy of this book sold - Dana A. Brand"). He also signed the book for me, with a personal inscription.

I'd seen Dana a few times. I think all of the other times at GKR events at Citi Field. His is one of the faces I would have been looking for when I attend the next "main event" this August. I remember seeing him pass by at the first GKR "main event" at Shea Stadium in 2008. I didn't know Dana at the time, but after meeting him, I remembered seeing him pass by me on his way to the field with his mother, in a wheelchair, and his family, while I was on line. Dana wrote about it in his book (The Last Days Of Shea). What a weekend that was.

I never got to tell Dana how much I enjoyed reading his 2 books (Mets Fan being the first one), but I certainly did. I'm almost done with the second one. I didn't start until after I had met him on that summer night 2 years ago, and of course, I had to read the books in order. The night that Dana debuted his second book, I got to hear him read a bit of it aloud. And I wish I could have his books on tape, read by him, because he had so much passion reading about the Mets and about Shea.

Thank you Dana for everything you've done in the Mets blogging and fan communities. We're all better off having known you.

I'll let Dana have the last words - two videos of Dana, both from Hofstra University, speaking about his books. It won't be the same without you.

Or if you can't see the embedded videos, you can go here and here.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cleaning House and the fate of Jose Reyes

Let me start by saying that there is an fan event, details here on facebook, whose sole purpose is to show anyone watching (i.e. management, television, other fans) that Mets fans want Jose Reyes to be a Met for a long time to come. I support the cause, but since it's a Friday night, I probably won't be out in Queens for the game (it's Friday June 3, the 7:10pm game against Atlanta; and it's a schlep from NJ for a weeknight game). The event is being organized by one of the most die-hard Mets fans I've ever met, Donna Bauer. According to the facebook event page, meet the group outside the rotunda before the game (4:30 to 6pm) and on the Shea Bridge in the top of the 5th.

Now, a lot has been written and spoken lately - really all speculation - about an upcoming fire sale of the Mets roster. Let me say this...I fully support it. In some ways, it's just wrong that a pro sports team in a major league based in New York has to go through with a fire sale, but in the case of the Mets, I think it's necessary. Not so much for the sake of shrinking the payroll, but more for the sake of cutting away the losers wearing Mets uniforms, as well as other players that just aren't practically part of the future of the organization.

There's still a handfull of "core players" leftover from the Mets teams that suffered through a playoff collapse in 2006 (I still say that not scoring in the bottom of the 6th in Game 7 against the Cardinals was a downward turning point for this franchise), the divsion-leading collapses of 2007 and 2008, and the utter failure of a season in 2009. I would trade away the leader of the pack - David Wright - as well as free agent-to-be Carlos Beltran. I would look to cut Francisco Rodriguez, even though he's preformed pretty well this year. I'd even look to trade Mike Pelfrey.

But there's one name that I left off that list. I know he's been injured in the past, but when he's on, he's explosive. This type of dynamic player just doesn't come around that often. That is Jose Reyes. Lots of people schooled in what the Mets are thinking have speculated that Jose Reyes will not even finish this season as a member of the New York Mets. He's a free agent looking to make big money this offseason, and it's money that the Mets just don't seem to have.

But if the Mets are hoping to compete in the future, they need their long-time catalyst. So why does everyone want to save him and not David Wright (Wright isn't even a free agent this offseason)? Well, let me draw this picture for you for Reyes, as just one example of "why". Lots of people have said that Citi Field is just too big. I think for Reyes, it's too small. I've noticed him legging out triples with ease at Citi Field (the way others get doubles). I think if the ballpark were a little bit bigger, Reyes would actually be able to turn 3rd and try for 4 bases a few times a season. With this Mets offense, Reyes needs to find a way to score on his own because guys like David Wright just aren't bringing him in very much.

And that leads me to the loser fan-annointed leader of this club, David Wright. The thought process is simple with him. He was the clutch guy and face of the team for all these bad years. And the word clutch should be in quotes because he just isn't. Maybe he's had undisclosed injuries (and I'll excuse what happened after he was beaned in the head 2 years ago) that have affected his play (throwing and hitting). Heck, it's widely thought that he has one now (caused by hustle, so it's not all bad, but we had to learn it from the manager's speculation almost 2 weeks after the fact, and not from the player saying i'm banged up and I need a day off). With Wright, and I think I've said this before, I say that the Mets have played bad with him, so they can play bad without him.

The end result of all this -- I think the Mets will dance around the bottom of contention until one of two things happens:
  1. the Wilpons need money and have to start selling off players now (that would only work in the supposed case that another team takes on the salary for the remainder of the season, which I had kept hearing wasn't gonna happen). That goes along with a rumor I saw on facebook today about a Memorial Day sale in Flushing.
  2. the Trade Deadline approaches and Sandy Alderson takes a reality check that the Mets are just short of serious contention, and it's time to start making trades for the sake of getting young players and draft picks in return for free agents that you won't be signing in the offseason because there's a need for new blood and less money to be spent. Now I know that there is some compensation for some types of free agents not being re-signed (though I don't know all the rules, nor do I know who on the Mets fits into that bucket), but making trades is better. It's kind of like being an organ donor. Especially if it's to a team that can beat the Yankees or Phillies.
But for now, let's try and send a message to management that while purging and rebuilding is a necessary step in making the Mets into winners again, it's important to keep the fans in the stands (they're having enough trouble with that with the current team as it is and the stadium layed out the way it is), and a big step into doing that is to keep Jose Reyes around for a long time (and I don't mean until this August).

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

April in Metsville

I'm giving this another shot, after last year's 5/6th attempt at a 27 game report (if you noticed, I never did the final one). This time, I'm using the pages in the calendar to write my monthly report.

The bookkeeping - the Mets are 11-16 over 27 games in April, in last place in the NL East 7.5 games out of first, in 14th place in the entire National League, and 25th overall in the Majors.

Looking over the game-by-game results, short of 3 and 6 game winning streaks, it just looks downright awful. They've also been swept in 2 doubleheaders, which happened to be on consecutive playing dates. They looked a bit streaky in April. Well, they were. 1 loss and 2 wins were not part of streaks of at least 2 games. In other words, for most of the month, they won some in a row, then lost some in a row, then won some in a row, and so on.

In the winning streaks, they looked like a really good team, the one that we all think they're capable of being, especially in the 6 game streak after Jason Bay returned to the lineup. But they had a lot of losses where they looked like a team that wanted to be broken up and sold off in pieces. In some ways, this streaky team isn't much different from what we saw last year.

But there's a few things very different from last year. Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins. Collins' managing style is very different from that of Jerry Manual. But will it work with this group of players (mostly the same core from last year)? I'm not sure. But that's in part, the players' problem. And together, Collins and Alderson have held players accountable more than I remember any Mets Manager and GM in recent years. They did a good job of not losing players during Spring Training moving to the Opening Day roster because of various contract clauses, then dumped players who underperformed after the season started. I love it. It's a bold statement...even if it's for fringe players.

So what's the next move? Or does the team turn it on again when they get home and we put off this discussion for another week? It's possible that this team really isn't as talented as we've been sold to believe. If the team has a .500 or worse May, I think it will be time for serious thought about trading off "talented" players.

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